December 29, 2010
December 22, 2010
Now we have two documents circulating which capture two of the many tendencies on the left regarding the present political moment.
The first is the Open Letter To The Left Establishment which is gathering a remarkable number of signatures across the political spectrum of the left. Its broad support makes it difficult to describe the politics behind it and it's clear that there are contradictions among the signers and the efforts they represent which will make practical action on the letter especially difficult. It speaks from impatience and a lack of sustained organizing. Still, it may mark a new point of political clarification, or at least a step in that direction.
The second piece comes from Jarvis Tyner and represents the thinking of the Communist Party leadership. It's entitled "Which way forward for the left" and may have been written in response to the Open Letter. Tyner's piece serves as a cautionary warning or reminder of several key points parts of the left seem to be blowing right past. On the other hand, it raises many more questions than it answers and leaves the key questions of leadership and left identity unresolved. Moreover, its practical application back-burners these questions.
Bear in mind that these are only two of many, many points of view now defining the US left. No one should feel at this point that they have to choose between only two points of view in order to remain on the left or that more nuanced positions are not possible, consistent and practical.
December 21, 2010
The FBI came unannounced to knock on doors at two apartments in Chicago this morning. FBI agent Robert Parker, under orders from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, delivered a subpoena to Maureen Murphy. Murphy, like several other individuals served subpoenas, is an organizer with the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago.
This continues the repression unleashed by Fitzgerald on the anti-war movement since September 24th, when fourteen subpoenas were delivered to anti-war, labor, and solidarity activists in coordinated raids involving more than 70 federal agents. Armed FBI agents raided homes, taking computers, phones, passports, documents, notebooks, and even children’s artwork. A total of 23 subpoenas have been served to activists around the country.
Maureen Murphy said, “Along with several others, I am being summoned to appear before the Grand Jury on Tuesday, January 25th, in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. We are being targeted for the work we do to end U.S. funding of the Israeli occupation, ending the war in Afghanistan and ending the occupation of Iraq. What is at stake for all of us is our right to dissent and organize to change harmful US foreign policy." Ms. Murphy is also the Managing Editor of the widely-read website, The Electronic Intifada.
In addition, three women in Minneapolis - Tracy Molm, Anh Pham, and Sara Martin - are threatened with reactivated subpoenas by Fitzgerald’s office and new Grand Jury dates. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression explained, “It is likely the three individuals, like all the others so far, will continue to refuse to take part in Fitzgerald’s witch hunt. Fitzgerald can then call for putting them in jail as long as he wants.”
For more information: www.stopfbi.net
Contact: Tom Burke, Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612
December 20, 2010
We are not talking here about a state bank which looks like and competes directly with other banks, good and welcome as that would be. We do need a people's bank that takes our money, invests it in our communities, pays and charges decent interest rates and is directly accountable to the people. The state bank idea being floated is not that.
Rather, we're talking here about a state institution or agency which invests the state's money in ways which benefit the state budget and services and which partners with existing community banks and credit unions to get money where it is needed and can be put to work in a popular or populist way. OPB did a story on the state bank idea today. Check it out here.
Oregon's divided legislature may help move the concept of a state bank forward. WFP did relatively well in the usually solid Republican areas and the state bank is a good or valid means of testing bipartisanship and the progressive populist spirit which sometimes holds sway in Oregon. On the other hand, it's instructive to note Ted Wheeler's naysaying in the OPB story and it's possible that legislators from both parties could close ranks against the WFP and the principle of "fusion lite" voting which gave it life in the last election. We're left wondering how many decision-makers in the Democratic establishment Wheeler is speaking for and how they will react when pushed from a populist base.
December 9, 2010
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar are returning to older models of organizing against the Israeli occupation. These organizers are employing strategies of resistance made famous during the first intifada in order to overcome stagnation and division within Palestinian society. Despite numerous obstacles from Israeli repression and the increasingly heavy-handed policies of the Palestinian Authority, a new National Committee in Beit Ommar is making headway in building a grassroots initiative to expand on the foundations of popular struggle.
Building the popular struggle
Beit Ommar is a large village in the southern West Bank with a population of approximately 17,000 persons, most of whom make their living as farmers. Five Israeli settlements are built on Beit Ommar's land, and the main road leading in to the village has a permanent watchtower guarded by the Israeli military. Several hundred residents from Beit Ommar are currently political prisoners in Israeli prisons, and the village is subjected to late-night raids by Israeli forces almost every night. Despite the oppressive presence of an occupying army, Beit Ommar villagers have a strong history of popular resistance, with active participation from the area during both the first and second intifadas.
In early 2010, Palestinian organizers in the village united to form the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. The idea behind this committee is hardly new; rather, the activists are seeking to return to models of organizing used in the first intifada which transcend political party affiliation and combine political struggle with social programs and support.
Additionally, these organizers are seeking to link popular resistance in surrounding villages, and strengthen communication and cooperation especially in Areas C and B in the West Bank. Under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were carved up into areas A, B and C, the latter of which indicates full Israeli control. The National Committee works with the Palestine Solidarity Project, an anti-occupation organization founded in 2006 to facilitate international and Israeli solidarity activists' involvement in demonstrations and other actions in the area. While participation from these solidarity activists is welcome, the committee maintains its focus on strengthening and empowering Palestinian leadership and popular struggle organizing.
Defending the land and resisting occupation
For the past eight months, the National Committee has planned weekly demonstrations against the nearby Karmei Tsur Settlement. Every Saturday, between 50 and 80 Palestinians, supported by Israeli and international solidarity activists, march towards the settlement fence. There they are always stopped by Israeli forces, who use tear gas and arrest activists in an attempt to repress this initiative. The demonstration draws a large number of youth from the village, who the committee recognize as the next generation of leaders in struggle.
Since many residents of Beit Ommar work in agriculture, the National Committee places a strong emphasis on defending farmer rights and access to land. Several days a week, committee organizers and PSP activists accompany farmers in the Saffa Valley, an area directly below the ideological Israeli settlement of Bayt Ayn and which is currently under threat of land annexation by the Israeli military. Since April 2009, when two elderly farmers were attacked by settlers in the valley, the situation in Saffa has escalated with settlers setting fire to crops and the Israeli military frequently imposing military closure. In the last two weeks, 33 Palestinian, Israeli and international solidarity activists have been arrested by Israeli forces while attempting to cultivate land in the valley. In December, Beit Ommar organizers intend to plant several thousand trees both in Saffa and on Beit Ommar land adjacent to the Karmei Tsur settlement in the hopes of deterring Israel's plan to annex more Palestinian land.
Organizers remain steadfast in the face of Israeli repression
In an attempt to repress the popular nature of resistance in Beit Ommar, Israeli forces raid the village almost every night, often trashing homes and arresting youth, particularly those who participate in the weekly demonstrations. In the month of October, 13 Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 28 were arrested solely because they attended the demonstrations. On 11 October 2010, 25-year-old National Committee member Eyad Jamil al-Alami was arrested from his home, given an administrative detention order and held in an Israeli prison without charges. He was released after one month, most likely due to lack of evidence against him. A little more than a week later, Israeli soldiers came to the houses of two committee members at 3:30am, trashed one of the residences and warned both organizers to stop planning demonstrations and hosting solidarity activists.
Despite intensified repression, the resolve of the National Committee in resisting the occupation has only strengthened. Membership in the committee continues to expand. Recently, activists in the neighboring village of Beit Ula contacted Beit Ommar organizers, seeking support for restarting demonstrations against Israel's annexation barrier, which is built on land belonging to Beit Ula farmers. The National Committee is currently working to strengthen the participation of women and youth in the weekly demonstrations, as the protests continue to grow and become more confrontational in nature.
Additionally, the National Committee in Beit Ommar has remained committed to operating outside of the influence of the Palestinian Authority. Organizers have declined offers of resources and delegations of politicians, regardless of their party affiliation. As the Palestinian Authority continues to crack down on other political parties or initiatives outside of its control, organizers in Beit Ommar seek a return to a participatory, grassroots and nonsectarian organizational model that increasingly seems at odds with the PA agenda.
Mousa Abu Maria is a Palestinian resident of Beit Ommar and a member of the National Committee. In 2006, Mousa co-founded the Palestine Solidarity Project along with his wife Bekah Wolf, who has Israeli citizenship. Mousa has spent more than half of the last decade in Israeli prisons, much of the time under administrative detention.
December 7, 2010
Susan Nielsen raises a very important question but fails to answer it adequately. She asks why an actual bomb that kills two lawmen is perceived by the public as a simple bank job when carried out by a white middle-aged far right ideologue and his patsy son. In the other case, a FBI fake bombing in which the only violence is
visited on innocent Muslims as a consequence of the story is perceived as another scary terrorist plot. When the FBI finds a foreign-born teenage Muslim to carry out their scheme. For Nielsen, the answer is "just human" [nature?].
Really? Then on what do humans rely to form those perceptions? Better look to how the media--including The Oregonian--present the two "Oregon bombs," one real, the other fake. The Woodburn murders are not covered as a terrorist bombing trial because a county prosecutor choose to downplay the ideology of the defendants. But the Christmas tree non-bomb is reported as a federal level terrorist plot against thousands of innocent Oregonians by a Muslim jihadist brainwashed by foreign websites.
Perhaps the larger reason the Woodburn bombers are not depicted as terrorists is because their ideology actually reflects that of a significant minority of American opinion which the media and the prosecutor cannot afford to challenge, while the foreign born Muslim fits the media-constructed symbol of a marginalized but frightening "enemy" perfectly.
We can now only speculate on what might have happened had the FBI applied the same level of scrutiny and surveillance to the local right-wing Tea Party types as they did to the Somali kid charged with the as-yet-unproven attempted Portland bombing. Certainly a few police officers' lives may have been saved in Woodburn had the FBI acted with its full powers and in an even-handed way.
We also need to note that there has been no outpouring of condemnation by the local right-wing zealots of Joshua and Bruce Turnidge. Sadly, we also note that a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Movement In Islam in Portland---really an irrelevent part of the bigger story---saw fit to go on television recently and backtrack from the progressive stand taken publicly by the Somali and Muslim communities in the Portland area. So one side--the right-wing--by its silence supports terrorism in Marion County while another side--Somalis, Muslims, civil libertarians--takes a more nuanced public position, anti-terrorist to its core, in relation to the Portland events and even has in its ranks people who join in the premature mainstream condemnation of the Somali kid being charged and held for a bombing which did not take place. For this the right-wing deserves mass public denunciation and the Somalis, Muslims and civil libertarians who are concerned with justice, community solidarity and with public safety deserve support.
And no one on the left torched the local Republican Party offices as the Turnidge case moved forward. There was an attack on a mosque in Corvallis, however, that was presumably carried out by right-wingers.
The refusal by the local media to bring terrorism and right-wing zealotry into the conversation surrounding the Turnidge case is indeed striking. If you don't know better, you think that at least one of the duo is just a bank robber gone slightly more wrong. Only late in the trial did another picture begin to emerge.
Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools?
And what can we do about it?
Jefferson High School cafeteria 5210 N. Kerby St.
Friday, Dec. 10, 4 pm - 6 pm
(4 pm social; 4:30 program)
Please join the Portland Association of Teachers and Rethinking Schools this Friday for a talk by Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp: "Not Waiting for Superman: Who's Bashing Teachers and Public Schools -- and what can we do about it?"
Stan Karp taught English and Journalism in Paterson, NJ for 30 years. He now directs the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey's Education Law Center and is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine.
Karp has written widely on school reform for Education Week, Educational Leadership, and other publications. He is a co-editor of several books, including Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice, and Rethinking School Reform: Views from the Classroom. Karp coordinates the www.notwaitingforsuperman.org website for Rethinking Schools.
Check out Bill Resnick's interview with Stan on yesterday's Old Mole Variety Hour: http://kboo.fm/node/25335.
December 6, 2010
Dear Friends and Allies,
The Safe Communities Project is a coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations, working to end local law enforcement collaboration with ICE
From Dec. 10th to the 18th the Safe Communities Project is joining the national efforts to raise awareness and take actions to end local law enforcement collaborations with ICE that criminalizes communities of color and hurts public safety.
We hope that you are able to attend one or more of these actions or events!
1. Opening Night For"CRIMINALES TODOS"A Community Art Exhibit December 10th , at 6pm- 12am Launch Pad Gallery, 534 Se OAK S
2. Know Your Rights and Know How to Protect Them-Dec. 11, at 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.,Center for Intercultural Organizing, 700 N. Killingworth St
3. Jobs with Justice Scrooge of the Year Holiday Party-Saturday, December 11 - 7pm Peace House - 2116 NE 18th Ave
4. Interfaith Vigil and Posada: Welcoming the Stranger-Dec. 16th Vigil 5pm-Terry Schrunk Plaza / Portland Fiesta 5:30pm-First Congregational UCC1126 SW Park Ave, Portland
5. Fifth Indigenous forum and commemoration of the international day of Migrants-Dec. 18, at 11:00 am-2:00pm,4312 SE Stark St. Portland
Opening Night For"CRIMINALES TODOS"
A Community Art Exibit
December 10th , at 6pm- 12am
Launch Pad Gallery,
534 Se OAK ST, PDX, OR 97214
CRIMINALES TODOS is a community call to action through art. Through this juried group show, over a dozen artists will open a dialogue about the prevailing culture of racism & xenophobia. We invite you to join us in solidarity in against discrimination, oppression & ignorance. Opening Night will Feature, MC M4, Diana Ruiz, Xochipilli Aztec Dancers. The Show will run from Dec.10 to - Jan.3 For more information call (503) 427 8704 or visit www.launchpadgallery.org/criminalestodos
Work Shop on "Know Your Rights and Know How to Protect Them"
PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS: DOs and DON'Ts.
December 11, at 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Center for Intercultural Organizing
700 N. Killingworth St
The Center for Intercultural Organizing is hosting a workshop on what to do if you are contacted by law enforcement agents in your car, on the street or at your home. This workshop will be led by Kevin Díaz, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oregon Please sign-up by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 503-287-4117 (ext.103)
Jobs with Justice Scrooge of the Year Holiday Party
Saturday, December 11 - 7pm
Peace House - 2116 NE 18th Ave
Click here to get tickets or buy votes and directions
"Scrooge of the Year" is a Jobs with Justice dis-honor, given to the individual or corporation that has done the most harm to working families in our community this year. The winner is decided by the number of votes that are purchased. That's right-the votes are for sale-we like to call it "corporate-style democracy" We then present the winner with their award sometime soon after the party.. There are some great contenders for this coveted award, deciding will surely be difficult. One individual that deserves support from the immigrant and ally community is.. Janet Napolitano, Head of DHS-Former governor of the "hate state", Arizona, Janet now heads the Department of Homeland Security. Janet has been nominated because of her work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which has deported record numbers of immigrants since she took over, and is coercing local law enforcement to hand over innocent people through the Secure Communities program but along with her this year's nominees are: Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of the Deficit Commission; Ken Wegner, Georgia Pacific; Elimane Mbengue and the Portland French School Board of Directors; and Securitas. Scrooge-a-rific!
Interfaith Vigil and Posada: Welcoming the Stranger
Vigil at 5pm, Terry Schrunk Plaza
1220 SW 3rd Ave, Portland
Fiesta at 5:30pm, First Congregational UCC
Fellowship Hall, 1126 SW Park Ave, Portland
...Immigrants and diverse faith communities from Portland to Washington, D.C. come together to shine a light on the urgent need for just and humane immigration reform! Here in Portland we are holding an interfaith vigil or "Posada" commemorating Advent, Hanukkah, and the Islamic New Year as seasons of profound welcome for the stranger and shining light into darkness. The Posada will begin at 5:00 in front of the Edith Green Federal Building (1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR), followed by a candlelit procession to First Congregational UCC (SW Park & Main) where we will celebrate together with food, lively music and a piñata! Sponsored by: The Oregon New Sanctuary Movement, the National New Sanctuary Movement, American Friends Service Committee, CAUSA, Latino Network, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Portland Jobs with Justice, VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, and Witness for Peace Northwest. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call 503-550-3510.
Fifth Indigenous forum and commemoration of the international day of Migrants
December 18, at 11:00 am-2:00pm
4312 SE Stark St. Portland
Participate in this educational event involving several indigenous communities - cañari/Incas, Mayas, Mixtecos, Zapotecos and Native Americans - who will share their stories/histories, their dreams, their challenges, their fight for unity and their resistance in this country. December 18th is a special date for millions of migrants who are members of diasporas around the world. We carry with us the hope of finding a place that unequivocally welcomes us home. At this event there will be bulletin boards, typical food of each indigenous nation Abya Yala and symbolic ritual. See you there! Sponsored by: VOZ, AFSC and Safe Communities Project For more information call 503-233-6787
Public employees continue to be Governor Kulongoski’s “sacrificial lambs,” in the effort to reduce the state budget. This week, he released a proposal to eliminate the six percent PERS pick-up for public employees, and cut salaries for teachers. The Governor’s proposal, which reduces the state budget by $2-billion in the next biennium, would have a devastating long-term effect on middle class public employees.
“These cuts would only add insult to injury to public employees who have already borne the brunt of budget cuts in these tough economic times,” said David Rives, AFT-Oregon President. “Governor Kulongoski’s “slash and burn” approach to balancing the budget is not a solution for Oregon’s long-term economic recovery, and only hurts those on the front lines providing vital education and other public services.”
Governor Kulongoski’s last day in office will be January 10. The 2011 Legislature, which convenes February 1, will be charged with determining the budget for the next biennium.
AFT-Oregon President David Rives talks PERS with City Club
AFT-Oregon President David Rives was invited, along with Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen, to speak with a City Club of Portland advisory committee on PERS. The City Club is made up of 1,500 professionals in business, government, social services and other professions, whose mission is to “inform its members and the community in public matters, and to arouse in them the realization of the obligations of citizenship.”
According to Rives, City Club committee members wanted to hear what public employees thought about the PERS and OPSRP retirement plans, particularly in light of proposals to reduce contributions and benefits. Rives said he made it clear that a secure retirement has been promised to many of our members and that it would be unfair to change the terms of that agreement now. Also, market returns for all investments, including PERS, have been affected due to the greed and fraud of financial companies that contributed to the current recession.
“Some districts forecasted wisely and some have adequate reserves to cover increases in actuarial liabilities. A few do not. But that’s no reason to penalize the thousands of our members who have weathered budget cuts and furloughs in these tough times,” Rives said. “We have seen market ups and downs before, and this will sort itself out” without over-reacting with measures that could carry drastic consequences for current and future generations of retirees,” he added.
The City Club will be issuing a report on the PERS system soon. AFT-Oregon will continue to speak out in the debate on PERS. A promise is a promise.
December 2, 2010
A day or two ago I answered a CNN survey about Wikileaks. The survey question was this: Is Wikileaks a terrorist organization?
I was surprised by the responses. Over 60% of respondents thought Wikileaks should be shut down as a terrorist organization and Julian Assange thrown in jail as an "irresponsible terrorist" (my paraphrase). Less than 40% of respondents saw the Wikileaks documents as the kind of disclosures that are a by-product of of a working and open democracy.
Personally, I like the simplicity of the Wikileaks leaks. There's no "spin", no editing, no framing. Very simply it's just the facts, the documents themselves with nothing else attached. And what we get is a very "close to the ground" look at how foreign policy is made, day by day, call by call, with each little e-mail (and its author) playing its own small role in the edifice of what is called foreign policy. Here we have real "transparency", and my, how it is resented!
Over and over again, the pinnacles of media and governmental power refer to Julian Assange and Wikileaks as "irresponsible". The many authoritarian members of our society are also outraged... "Our troops are put in danger by these leaks", they holler.
This has me asking myself, "what is responsible, what do they mean by irresponsible?". The only answer I can com up with is this. "Responsibility" must mean that one must always act in a way that makes sure the emperor always has his clothes on. Evidently, in our modern democracy, there is a duty and responsibility to portray governmental power as wise and all-knowing (even if we don't agree). Evidently there is a duty to always maintain the theater of government and policy; the backstage is always off limits. The emperor is always the emperor; to catch him naked and practicing his lines cannot be permitted.
So, I guess I must be a terrorist too. I do like transparency, because transparency highlights the process and how the process makes the policy. For me, this kind of transparency can lead to something called "the truth". So, telling the truth is "terrorism"? Anybody who has real democratic values ought to think carefully here.
Years ago, Carl Sandburg framed the whole issue very well in his poem, "Government". To recognize that government is the product of people is an inherent and necessary democratic value. Anything less than this understanding is to take the authoritarian route. Democracy is indeed in a desperate state at this time!
THE Government--I heard about the Government and
I went out to find it. I said I would look closely at
it when I saw it.
Then I saw a policeman dragging a drunken man to
the callaboose. It was the Government in action.
I saw a ward alderman slip into an office one morning
and talk with a judge. Later in the day the judge
dismissed a case against a pickpocket who was a
live ward worker for the alderman. Again I saw
this was the Government, doing things.
I saw militiamen level their rifles at a crowd of
workingmen who were trying to get other workingmen
to stay away from a shop where there was a strike
on. Government in action.
Everywhere I saw that Government is a thing made of
men, that Government has blood and bones, it is
many mouths whispering into many ears, sending
telegrams, aiming rifles, writing orders, saying
"yes" and "no."
Government dies as the men who form it die and are laid
away in their graves and the new Government that
comes after is human, made of heartbeats of blood,
ambitions, lusts, and money running through it all,
money paid and money taken, and money covered
up and spoken of with hushed voices.
A Government is just as secret and mysterious and sensitive
as any human sinner carrying a load of germs,
traditions and corpuscles handed down from
fathers and mothers away back.